Day 29, Wednesday 15 March. Recherche Bay, D’Entrecasteaux Channel
This area of Tasmania was originally explored and charted initially by the Frenchmen, Baudin and d’Entrecasteaux and hence some of the landmarks have French names, but of course with anglicised pronunciations. Recherche is ‘Research’ and D’Entrecasteaux is just too much of a tongue twister, and is known universally here as ‘The Channel’, whether talking to landlubbers or seafarers.
The Pigsties, Recherche Bay.
We were anchored in ‘The Pigsties’ at the northern end of Recherche Bay along with several other VDL boats, while others anchored at the Coalbins in the centre of the bay. The origin of Coalbins is pretty obvious, because this is an area where there was a coal mine about 100 years ago and the coal was shipped from this area, but the origin of Pigsties is less obvious.
Coal Bins, Recherche Bay
We had a quiet day, moving Chakana to the Coalbins for a few hours while we explored the southern end of the bay, where there is a ranger station and a few shacks. This is the start of one of the two 7-day walking tracks to Port Davey, this track following the southern coastline.
It was the site of a large whaling station and there is a life size sculpture of a baby Southern White whale. Apparently one of the techniques to attract and keep whales in the bay was to kill the baby whales and so the mother would then hang around looking for the baby and she would be killed also. And they wondered why the population diminished quickly….
Once again we were treated to a vista of serried rows of mountains in the afternoon light, a vista that we never tire of as we travel around the Tasmanian coastline.
After talking with a local lady who had collected a bucketful of fresh mussels we returned to the Pigsties because there was insufficient room to anchor in the lee of the headland adjacent to the Coalbins, ready for the next round of sundowners followed by a curry hosted on Chakana and shared with the Aquacadabrans.
Day 30, Thursday 16 March. Deep Hole, Southport and Great Taylors Bay, D’Entrecasteaux Channel
One of the enchantments of The Channel is the numerous bays in which to anchor and explore, and the VDL organizers also uses it to accumulate the boats in the fleet so that we all arrive in Hobart at the appointed time for the final dinner. The presence of the bays encourages you to day hop between anchorages and this is exactly what we did, particularly after arriving ‘early’ from Pt Davey, early being earlier than the suggested schedule at the start of the rally.
Deep hole, Southport.
Ida Bay Railway
First stop was a short hop around to Southport, which is a small village, in a large bay with a river behind it. In a former life there was a small limestone quarry inland that had a narrow gauge railway bringing the limestone to the bay for transfer to ships, presumably by barges. The railway is now a tourist rail with a coffee shop at the end, which is the attraction for the yachties that have been deprived of this luxury. Most of the passengers board at the other end and have a ride down to the bay before returning to their cars. We walked ashore amongst the regrown eucalypt forest and were rewarded with numerous birds and birdsong, something we had not had much of since leaving the Tamar River.
The wind sprung up in the afternoon with a pleasant 15kt westerly, and after complaining about motoring for days we could only take advantage of it and move to Jetty Bay at the southern end of Great Taylor Bay on Bruny Island. We had a fantastic 2 hours of QUIET sailing at 7kts with just the genoa powering Chakana along – bliss!!
A birthday party for Alison of Rosebud was in full swing on one of the motor boats complete with the music of Bob Marley but even with the frequent laughter coming across the water we did not detect any olfactory signals that other traditions associated with the late Bob M were in use.
Day 31, Friday 17 March. Cape Bruny Lighthouse and Mickeys Bay, D’Entrecasteaux Channel
Cape Bruny Lighthouse
A sunny morning beckoned us ashore to walk several kilometres to the former Cape Bruny lighthouse. This is a magnificent old structure built by convicts using sandstone extracted from a quarry nearby. In a matter of months they had quarried the stone, transported it up the hill to the local peak and built the lighthouse. It was amazing productivity. Originally whale oil was used for the light, followed by a pressure kerosene lamp, before finally being electrified. A ring of Fresnel lenses that rotated around the light provided the flashes that provided the characteristic flashes all driven by a clockwork mechanism whose weight had to be wound upwards every 30 minutes using a winch. Clear skies gave us stunning views from the top of the lighthouse over The Channel and out to Pedra Branca, a white rock 43km out to sea that hosts a bird rookery, seal colony and several shipwrecks.
Spiral staircase inside lighthouse.
Fresnel lens and electric lamps.
View of lighthouse keeper cottages and Lighthouse Bay
BBQ lunch at Mickeys Bay.
Prior to lunch we motored several miles across Great Taylor Bay to the small indent known as Mickeys Bay where we joined the crews of about six VDL boats for a long barbeque lunch. This was on private land and not National Park, allowing us to have a genuine barbeque using wood as fuel. It was warm and sunny, and a very pleasant afternoon ensued. This part of the VDL cruise was becoming very social! Sundowners were not needed in the evening, and dinner on board Chakana was light.
Day 32, Saturday 18 March. An ‘At Home’ in Dover, D’Entrecasteaux Channel
Dover was a short distance across The Channel from Mickeys Bay and is the home port of Jeremy and Penny from Rosinante, our radio communications boat for the cruise,who had coordinated an At Home at the local Port Esperance Sailing Club (PESC). This turned out to be a barbeque and salads prepared by the local members, for which we paid the princely sum of $20 or $25 if you wanted to include one of their delicious home cooked desserts, which of course most of us did. They organised a local family to conduct a jam session to which some others joined in, and the VDL crews, characterised principally by grey hair and spreading girths, danced most of the night away to rock music that was mostly very familiar to our generation. We were blessed, once again, with a warm still night which encouraged people to stay until stumps were pulled.
The committee, including the Commodore, were of an age more likely to be seen at a primary school P & C night, which means that there may be hope for the future of sailing, at least in this part of the world.
Day 33, Sunday 18 March. Dinner at Port Cygnet, D’Entrecasteaux Channel
We motor sailed 9.5miles, initially in The Channel and then in the Huon River, to reach Port Cygnet, which is at the southern end of the rather charming small town of Cygnet. There is large fleet of moored boats outside of the sailing club, and as we wriggled in to anchor at a place not too distant from the sailing club, we realised we were about to drop anchor on the starting line just before the local racing fleet was about to start jockeying for position five minutes from the start. We quickly moved away from the line, partly as courtesy, and partly as self-preservation so that Chakana would not have a boat wedged in amongst the guardrails.
We had been to Cygnet before during January, and again we enjoyed the walk into town and along the main street. A bit sleepier this time with fewer tourists passing through.
Another warm evening promised another long night ashore as the Port Cygnet Sailing Club hosted a barbeque dinner followed by a choice of four desserts, or any combination thereof. The final stages of the VDL are not for the faint hearted or those trying to prevent further spreading of their girth. David Meldrum (Cruise Commodore) was an entertaining MC once again.
The VDL cruise is a significant fund raiser for the sailing clubs in Tasmania, and we were pleased to have the opportunity to enjoy their hospitality and contribute to their sailing programs. I have noticed that the Tasmanian sailing clubs seem to the ability to build uncomplicated elegant buildings for their clubhouses that are in harmony with the built and natural environments around them.
Day 34, Monday 19 March. Kettering and Quarantine Bay, D’Entrecasteaux Channel
Yes, we were still in The Channel and yes, the socialising continued!
With a forecast for some wind, and maybe some rain we set off from Cygnet and sailed out of the Huon River dodging several brave souls in open boats heading into Cygnet. We motor-sailed into a stiff breeze while they were scooting before it in their gaff rigged boats. The breeze died, as it always seems to on this trip and we motored north along The Channel turning left into Kettering to refuel Chakana. A mere 425 litres later, we now had full tanks again, the first time we had refuelled since leaving Hobart. Our log shows a total of 144 hours using the engine since leaving Hobart 34 days ago and hence an average fuel consumption rate of 3.0 l/h.
After refuelling, it was a quick trip across to Quarantine Bay, where the VDL boats that had arrived earlier, and numbering more than half of the fleet, had lit a fire in the fire pit ashore, and the gas barbeques were being prepared for their final outing on the 2017 VDL Circumnavigation.
Former Quarantine Station.
We took a brief walk to the site of the former Quarantine Station, where again the Tasmanian government has installed insightful interpretation boards so that the visitors can gain a sense of the reasons, actions and people who both worked and spent time there. One of the major reasons was its use to hold the soldiers returning from World War I for seven days to determine if they had been infected by the Spanish flu epidemic that sent millions across the world to an early grave. The isolation of Tasmania spared it from much of the epidemic, but inevitably it occurred and the government was caught short with a lack of vaccine and other medicines – it appears that the governments in those days were no better prepared for inevitabilities than those of today.
BBQ at Quarantine Bay.
As we returned we gathered our share of fallen trees to contribute to the fire pit and shared sundowners with the other crews before cooking yet another barbeque that was accompanied by yet more vino tinto.
Echidna at Quarantine Station.
Day 35, Tuesday 20 March. Out of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel!
We soon left The Channel behind in the morning as we motored, yet again in flat calm waters, northwards to the Derwent River and Hobart. The official proceedings were not scheduled to commence until Thursday, but most boats arrived on Tuesday, including ourselves. Our circumnavigation of Tasmania was complete and a strong sense of satisfaction seeped through us as we reflected on our achievements, albeit in what must have been the most benign weather conditions ever seen on a VDL Circumnavigation Rally. Chakana had performed well, with only very minor maintenance issues having to be fixed along the way, which certainly eases the stress on her crew, and adds to the satisfaction as we reflect on our journey.
We were allocated the same berth as before, B10, which was conveniently close to the club house and its facilities. To dodge the scrum for the single washing machine at the clubhouse we took our four loads to the local laundrette and completed that inevitable chore.
The evening saw the Brighton contingent of It’s a Privilege, Aquacadabra and Chakana sitting at a long table at Shippies (the Shipwright Arms Hotel) with Birubi, who had been cruising the east coast of Tasmania, with many stories being recounted from our circumnavigation ventures. It was a happy group of people that walked down the hill that night. Normally I would revel in being tied up in a marina and therefore not having to worry about anchors dragging in the night, but this had only been a concern at two anchorages for the entire trip due to the calm conditions on almost every night. It was to be just another night.
Day 36, Wednesday 21 March. RYCT Marina, Hobart
We had a busy day cleaning Chakana outside and in. The most time consuming job was emptying the anchor chain locker and laying out the chain on the walkway at the marina so that I could remove the twists in the final forty metres of chain. We carry 90 metres in total and, even though we have a swivel at the anchor, the twists gradually accumulate with the frequent lowering and raising of the anchor.
One of the Queensland contingent of boats had purchased a second hand Magna – dubbed as a SA BMW – when they arrived in Hobart before Christmas. Wednesday night at RYCT is their raffle night and the car was donated as first prize in a raffle that was an addition to the normal meat tray and wine raffle. Although numerous tickets were purchased, none of the VDL cruisers wanted to win it, and we didn’t. One of the locals won it and promptly donated it to the junior sailors to sell on Gumtree, a fate that would surely have occurred if one of the cruisers had won it.
I won both a bottle of Shiraz and a lump of corned silverside in the normal raffle. The wine promptly disappeared over dinner in the clubhouse and the silverside was a welcome addition to the victuals on Chakana.
Day 37, Thursday 22 March. Robina is Numera Una
This is the final day of the VDL Circumnavigation Rally and the only activity was the final dinner at the RYCT clubhouse. Almost all crews were present, and it was an outstanding evening with plenty of stories to tell. David Meldrum, our Cruise Commodore, again was an entertaining MC and maintained a seemingly constant banter of jokes and commentary before the meal and between courses. Three major awards are presented:
- Boat of the Fleet – as voted by the skippers. This was won by Paul and Lynnie Pryor of Rumba who were popular personalities at the onshore activities. Paul also had an outstanding collection of tools and other bits and pieces along with the skills to use them. He helped with repairs on several boats whose owners were very appreciative.
- Most Entertaining Log Book. This was won by Hugh and Tina of Inya Dreams who in addition to adding the normal information – course, time, distance etc included many photographs. Tina is a keen photographer with a sharp eye for composition.
- Most Authentic Log Book. This was one by….. us! Or more precisely by Robina who diligently filled in the details of each day including weather forecasts, relevant tidal data and my passage plans for the longer legs between ports. We keep a log book as part of our normal sailing routine, but this time Robina had to transfer the information and add in the extra bits. Winning it was a highlight for us, and the plaque with medallion will occupy a prominent position on the forward bulkhead of Chakana’s saloon cabin.
Robina and Brenton with The Admiral Sir Guy Wyatt plaque.
Firstly the numbers. Over the 37 days we:
- Logged 692 nautical miles (1,282km)
- Hours underway – 169
- Engine hours (mostly steaming) – 147
As you can see from the above there was not much time underway without a motor running even when time is allowed for having the motor running while anchoring and other sundry manoeuvres.
The overriding memory was the exceptionally benign weather we were blessed with for almost the entire circumnavigation. Sure, the rally occurs in the two months that are known to have the most favourable weather, which for Tasmania, means the time with the least number of cold fronts passing over the state, but even the Tasmanians were surprised at the length and pleasantness of their ‘Indian summer’.
As expected, the camaraderie amongst the crews was another highlight, which only deepened with the shared experiences, the radio scheds and time spent socialising in cockpits or on various beaches as the rally progressed.
Personal highlights for us were the Gordon River and Pt Davey / Bathurst Harbour including the climb to the summit of Mt Rugby with its stunning vistas below us on a day of almost limitless visibility.
The schedule was not overly ambitious, but there appeared to be ever-present pressure to keep moving and participating in the opportunities for seeing more of Tasmania. Producing this blog contributed to the pressure, but we see it as an important record for ourselves from which others can derive vicarious pleasure if they wish.
The RBYC contingent at Presentation Dinner. Susie and Peter, It’s a Privilege, Robina, Chakana, Rob and Tony, Aquacadabra, Brenton, Chakana.